Working from home, often known as lavoro agile or ‘smart working‘ in Italian, was rare in Italy before the pandemic forced many companies to move their operations online.
With just a few thousand people working from home at the end of 2019, smart working has since “exploded” in Italy – raising new questions about how the nation’s working culture will look in future, according to a study carried out by the Italian Metalworkers’ Federation and the Catholic University of Milan.
“Agile work is challenging but allows a flexibility appreciated by workers – now we need more negotiation to get out of the emergency,” said the Federation’s secretary general, Roberto Benaglia.
The survey revealed that over half of respondents (59 percent) complained that their hours now extended beyond what was agreed in their contract, while almost two thirds (61 percent) said they couldn’t disconnect from work at the end of the day.
One in ten said they were suffering from loneliness and a quarter of respondents revealed the relationship with their colleagues is what they “miss a lot”.
Not having a clear divide between work and a personal life hasn’t all been negative, however.
On a scale of one to 10, people scored the flexibility of home working as an 8, with over a quarter (28 percent) saying they don’t want to return to the office at all.
Almost one in six (14 percent) rated smart working positively, because of the opportunity to spend more time with their children, while one in five (21 percent) claim to have had improved concentration.
Some 80 percent of the almost 5,000 respondents said they had never worked from home before the pandemic, but thought the shift in the way Italy is doing business had created new ideas for how to work in the future.
Over half (58 percent) said they would like to work in a hybrid model, spending some days in the office and some days remote working.
How this would work in practice is up for debate: “The experience of the pandemic must now give way to a sustainable and lasting model of agile working, which focuses on skills and generates both capacity for companies, and wellbeing and satisfaction for employees,” stated the Federation.
“These months have been a big test, there is no going back – the challenge is to promote and improve agile working by increasing the degree of control by workers, while maintaining good living conditions,” it added.
The findings are based on employees mostly in the aerospace, ICT, software production and automotive sectors in companies based in large cities including Rome, Milan, Turin, Bologna, Genoa and Trieste.
Other emerging figures have also nodded towards a new way of working in Italy in the future.
In a study by Illimity Bank, flexibility came up again as a positive outcome of the ‘smart working’ trend, but the studay also found that it had its impacts on mental health.
“After our experiences, we can now say that even psychologically, 100 percent remote working is not a sustainable method for too long,” said the bank’s HR manager Marco Russomando.
“Apart from the difficulty of separating private life and work, working all the time through a screen is not in our nature, which is also expressed through sharing, co-creation and training side by side,” he added.
Russomando said “the right balance” was needed, although how this will be implemented across all companies is unclear.
However, regardless of how employees and companies decide to operate in future, he pointed to results – rather simply being present – as the real measure of success.
“At last we can experience a new way of working in which people are evaluated on the basis of objectives and not on the basis of the hours they spend in the office, as should be the case in the advanced service sector of a truly modern country,” he added.
The truth about Ireland’s monster €240bn debt: it wasn’t the banks
There’s a perception that Ireland’s monster debt – it will be €240 billion by the end of the year, on a per capita basis the third highest in the world, was put there by band of rogue bankers. And that we as a people have been victims of a terrible wrong.
The truth of course is more sticky, more unpalatable than the bar stool narratives we tell ourselves.
Most of the debt – more than €100 billion – arose from a sequence of budget deficits run up in the wake of the 2008 financial crash and linked to then government’s mismanagement of the public finances, a government that we voted into office three times in succession.
The former Fianna Fáil-led administration had spent lavishly in 2000s while using windfall taxes from the property sector to plug the holes in its accounts.
When these taxes dried up, the deficit ballooned. At the height of the crisis in 2009 the deficit was €23 billion. That meant the State was spending €23 billion more than it was taking in by way of taxes and other income.
This necessitated borrowing on a grand scale, which went on – to a varying extent – for a decade until the State ran a budget surplus in 2018.
The original cost of bailing out the banks was €64 billion but this has been clawed back to around €40 billion by way of levies, dividends and share selloffs arising out of the State’s ownership of the banks.
It’s a big number, but less than half the bill foisted upon us from budgetary mismanagement, none of which can be clawed back.
On a per capita basis, the State’s debt figure equates to €46,000 for every man, woman and child in the State and €103,300 for every worker.
And the cost of servicing it has cost us €60 billion over the past decade: equivalent to three years of health spending. Make no mistake the State is paying for its boom time folly.
So it behoves us to sit up and listen when the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (Ifac) sounds a note of caution about the Government’s budgetary strategy, particularly when it claims we’re sailing close to unsustainable debt trajectory.
And not to dismiss the council’s critique, as some do, as an act of fiscal pedantry, far removed from the realpolitik of government.
While the €4.2 billion spending hike earmarked for Budget 2022 is broadly welcomed, the council takes issue with the Government’s medium-term budgetary strategy, which envisages a series of much bigger budget deficits out to 2025 and nearly €19 billion in additional borrowing.
This will leave the State with a bigger and less manageable debt up the line and therefore more exposed to the next crisis. There was now a one in four chance of the national debt moving on to an unsustainable trajectory in the years ahead, it said.
The council also warned that borrowing and ramping up spending during a strong recovery could “backfire” triggering an acceleration in prices if capacity constraints, most notably in the construction sector, bite.
You would think that as a country with a big debt, the chief threat here is rising interest rates, something that is likely to arise if the current pick-up in inflation proves longer than expected.
Ifac has stress-tested the Irish economy against possible interest rate hikes and growth shocks, finding the latter poses a greater problem.
While a big 2 percentage point shock to the Government’s borrowing costs would add just 0.4 percentage points to the debt ratio in three years it would barely raise annual funding costs. This is largely because the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) bond issuance is long-dated and, in the main, fixed rate.
In contrast a typical growth shock of 3.6 per cent for two years could add over 20 percentage points to the debt ratio in three years. “With high debt ratios to begin with, this could snowball and make it difficult to pull down debt ratios in later years,” it said.
Two years ago, NTMA chief Conor O’Kelly was asked what the chief financial risks facing the agency were and if it had a Brexit contingency plan.
He said the agency operated on “permanent contingency” basis . As a small, highly-indebted economy, which relies on international investors for 90 per cent of its borrowings, he said Ireland and the NTMA needed to be in a permanent state of crisis readiness.
The reality is that the next shock, the next thing that will hit our funding market, will probably be something that we have not yet thought of and is not on the front page of every newspaper in the world, O’Kelly said. Nine months later, the Covid crisis hit and the global economy fell off a cliff and the NTMA’s borrowing plans were out the window.
This goes to the heart of Ifac’s commentary: it’s not a case of wondering if there will be another recession or if there will be another financial shock, that’s a given, they’re coming on average every 10 years.
Downturns are part of the natural cycle, financial shocks are part of the global economy. The question is, will you be in a position to borrow and spend your way out of it.
Berlin house seizure referendum approaches decision day
In her apartment in suburban Berlin, Regina Lehmann despairs at the letter from her landlord, a big real estate group: the rent is going up.
Effective November 1, the increase of 12.34 euros ($14.54) on her monthly rent of 623.44 euros will be “difficult” to finance with her only income a disability pension, Lehmann tells AFP.
Almost 700 of her neighbours in the popular Berlin neighbourhood of Spandau will suffer the same fate, boosting their rent by up to eight percent.
Increases like these are at the root of a popular initiative to “expropriate” real estate companies such as Adler, which owns Lehmann’s flat,
that will culminate in a local referendum on September 26, the same day as national and municipal elections.
Residents in the capital have become increasingly frustrated with rising housing costs, as the city’s attractiveness to outsiders has grown in recent years.
And beyond Berlin, the cost of housing has become a hot topic on the campaign trail in the contest to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor.
Back in Lehmann’s living room, surrounded by pictures of her family, Lehmann says she simply “won’t pay” the rise.
“I think, if we pay, after a while they’ll just increase the rent again,” she says.
Rent campaigners secured the referendum in Berlin after collecting 346,000 signatures in support of their proposition — well above the number needed.
They are pushing to “expropriate” homes from real estate companies with more than 3,000 properties.
The result of the poll will not be binding, but advocates hope to force city government to respond to soaring rents, with the cost of housing going up by 85 percent between 2007 and 2019.
The rise has been painful for residents in the capital where 80 percent of people are renters, and 19.3 percent of people live under the country’s poverty line, compared to 15.9 percent in the country as a whole.
Campaigners lay the blame at the door of major real estate groups, such as Adler, which owns 20,000 properties in Berlin.
In Lehmann’s Spandau district, activists argue Adler’s attempt to hike rents is illegal, exceeding a legal reference index linked to the average rent in each area.
The property group, in response, describes an “improved environment” around the lodgings that gives it grounds to charge more.
Supporters of expropriation have upped the tempo of their campaign in recent weeks to win over undecided voters, hanging posters and organising demonstrations across the city.
Many Berliners experienced rent increases after the German constitutional court struck down a rent cap which had been introduced by the city earlier this year, and a poll by the Tagesspiegel daily showed 47 percent of residents supported the radical proposal put forward in the referendum.
“We have to fight for our rights,” says Catia Santos, 41, who recently attended a rent protest with her partner.
“Recently my rent has gone up by 100 euros, even though I am not earning any more than before.”
On Friday, just over a week before the vote, the city of Berlin announced the purchase of 14,750 residential properties for 2.4 billion euros from German real estate giants Deutsche Wohnen and Vonovia, a deal forged under pressure to find an answer to rising rents.
Forcibly taking ownership of privately owned accommodation has largely been rejected by national and local politicians in favour of plans to speed up the building of new homes.
“The best protection for renters is and always will be having enough places to live in,” Armin Laschet, the conservative candidate to succeed Merkel as chancellor, told a real estate conference in Berlin in June.
The social-democrat favourite in the local Berlin elections, Franziska Giffey, also declared her opposition to the proposal, saying it could “damage” the city’s reputation.
But her party’s candidate to be chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has called for a “rent moratorium” to stabilise prices.
Only the far-left Die Linke and some individual Green candidates have come out in favour of expropriation, with some even displaying the rent campaigners’ logo on their election materials.
President’s decision to decline invite to centenary an ‘own goal’, says Senator
President Michael D Higgins’s decision to decline an invite to a centenary church religious commemoration of partition and the establishment of Northern Ireland has been branded an “own goal” by Independent Senator Gerard Craughwell.
The move was “uncharacteristic” of the President, who has “always been the man to step forward for reconciliation and to do his bit to try to bring this country together”, said Mr Craughwell on Saturday.
The event in Co Armagh next month is not a celebration, but a commemoration, he said, adding that the declination has brought about a “deep sense of disappointment” in some unionists.
“I think we have missed an opportunity to extend the hand of friendship to the more moderate unionists and we have actually enraged the more radical unionists,” he told RTÉ’s Saturday with Katie Hannon radio programme.
Mr Higgins was invited to a “service of reflection and hope”, the Senator noted, adding: “Any of us sitting in this country today, north or south, would want to reflect on the history of this country with the hope that we might have for the future of the new Ireland- an Ireland that would embrace all traditions.”
Mr Higgins’s statement politicised the situation, which was “so uncharacteristic of the President it is difficult to accept”, he added.
Mr Craughwell was one of six Independent Senators who signed a letter to the President on Thursday voicing concerns that he had declined the invitation.
In their letter, the Independent Senators said: “We earnestly suggest, if possible that you should reconsider the matter with a view to attending the event as we believe your attendance has significant potential to advance the cause of reconciliation between the different traditions in Northern Ireland and on this island.”
Mr Craughwell said there will be “extreme unionists who make serious mileage out of this and the more moderate ones will be deeply hurt”.
Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane told the programme he could not see “any circumstance” where the President of Ireland would mark, commemorate or celebrate partition.
Mr Cullinane said there is a “fine line between commemoration and celebration”, and he said partition of the island is not a historical event but contemporary, as the country “is still divided and our country is still partitioned”.
Social Democrat co-leader Róisín Shortall said she agrees with the actions of the President, who was “completely within his right” to decline the invitation.
“The partition of Ireland and the formation of Northern Ireland is not something that most people would consider good developments or something that we should celebrate in any way,” she said.
There would be a “very different discussion” to be had, with other concerns expressed, said Ms Shortall, if the President had accepted the invitation to the event with its current title, which stated it would “mark the centenaries of the partition of Ireland and the formation of Northern Ireland”.
Minister of State for the Department of Health Mary Butler said the discussion around the issue has been “a little bit unhelpful” as it overshadowed the President’s visit to the Vatican.
“Unfortunately something that was really positive turned into a negative … The President of our country is entitled to make a decision on any invitation he receives,” she said.
Inside the tiny ‘smart home’ that will be sold in London for less than £300k
Family of Covid patient who left hospital urges people to follow ‘proper’ medical advice
Beeban Kidron v Silicon Valley: one woman’s fight to protect children online | Beeban Kidron
The 1915 Armenian Genocide and its Russophobic Origins
The Religious Roots of Russia’s Mistrust towards the West
Harvest Moon: One World review – a farming game that’s gone to seed | Games
Culture1 week ago
EXPLAINED: How to get Switzerland’s Covid certificate with a negative test
Current1 week ago
Food is as important as beaches when it comes to buying Cornish homes
Technology6 days ago
Ireland is Europe’s ‘Wild West’ of data protection
Current1 week ago
Rotunda to extend visiting hours for partners of pregnant women
Technology1 week ago
‘I didn’t want to build a Dublin-centric team with everybody coming to the office’
Culture6 days ago
Election result: Solberg unseated as Norway’s left-wing opposition comes out on top
Technology7 days ago
Tech widens the educational divide. And I should know – I’m a teacher in a pandemic • The Register
Technology7 days ago
How to develop a coaching mindset